Just an hour from Hong Kong, the Portuguese colonial city of Macau truly surprised us with its beautifully preserved colonial architecture and unique cuisine. This Special Administrative Region of China is an eclectic destination that offers a wonderful blend of Portugese and Chinese cultures.
Although we stayed just for two days, we certainly made the most of our trip. We browsed the ultra-luxe stores, attended extravagant shows, indulged in flavorful dishes, visited incense-filled temples and explored the UNESCO-inscribed old town.
The Vegas of China
Many of the flashy, Vegas-style casinos are located along the dynamic Cotai Strip which links the islands of Taipa and Coloane. Gambling goes on 24 hours a day! We enjoyed watching people try their hand at roulette or blackjack and discovered Chinese games like fan tan and sic bo.
From all the hotels, the golden lotus-shaped Grand Lisboa casino-hotel truly delighted us. We also visited the Macanese versions of Vegas classics, like the Venetian, home to the largest casino in the world, and the floral-themed Wynn Palace.
The Forbes Five-Star Wynn hotel features two impressive shows that left us speechless. Both Dragon of Fortune and Tree of Prosperity take turns to slowly emerge from the Rotunda basement in a dramatic display.
Symbolizing vitality, good fortune and well-being, the powerful dragon rises in a rolling fog to a height of 28 feet. 2,450 square feet of gold leaf cover the Dragon and its base which is themed to resemble carved jade set within decorative gold frames. The wonderful cupola in the ceiling illustrates the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.
The shows start from 10:00 am to 2:00 am daily and alternate between them at 30 minutes intervals. Both shows attracts many visitors as they are totally free. The realistic movements of the dragon´s head as well as its glowing eyes and the smoke billowing from its nostrils, will absolutely amaze you.
Every 15 minutes, fire shimmer and plumes of water dance to Broadway show tunes and Chinese classics. This delightful performance of light, water and fire is very similar to the impressive dancing water show at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Beyond the Casinos
Even though the city is known as a gambling mecca of the eastern hemisphere, there is more to Macau than just casinos. Full of colorful facades, narrow cobblestone streets and rows of cafes shaded by drooping palms, the UNESCO-inscribed old town almost makes you forget you’re in China.
Escaping the gambling dens gave us the opportunity to see the real Macau. After walking to the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Macau’s most famous landmark, we stopped for a while in a Macanese bakery to try one of Macau’s signature delicacies. The egg tart, which is a creamy custard with a pleasantly caramelized top, encased within a delicate, flaky pastry cup, was first created sometime before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Portugal and came to the tiny region of Macau during its colonial period.
Visiting the oldest and most famous Taoist temple in Macau was one of the highlights of our trip. Built in 1488, during the Ming dynasty, A-Ma temple it is dedicated to the goddess who gave Macau its name.